At the turn of the century, American Jews and prohibitionists viewed one another with growing suspicion. Jews believed that all Americans had the right to sell and consume alcohol, while prohibitionists insisted that alcohol commerce and consumption posed a threat to the nation’s morality and security. The two groups possessed incompatible visions of what it meant to be a productive and patriotic American--and in 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution made alcohol commerce illegal, Jews discovered that anti-Semitic sentiments had mixed with anti-alcohol ideology, threatening their reputation and their standing in American society.
In Jews and Booze, Marni Davis examines American Jews’ long and complicated relationship to alcohol during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the years of the national prohibition movement’s rise and fall. Bringing to bear an extensive range of archival materials, Davis offers a novel perspective on a previously unstudied area of American Jewish economic activity--the making and selling of liquor, wine, and beer--and reveals that alcohol commerce played a crucial role in Jewish immigrant acculturation and the growth of Jewish communities in the United States. But prohibition’s triumph cast a pall on American Jews’ history in the alcohol trade, forcing them to revise, clarify, and defend their communal and civic identities, both to their fellow Americans and to themselves.
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In Roth’s novel, Uncle Leo sarcastically tells his wife that he’ll stay in bars “till a Jewish girl is Miss Rheingold"...Was there ever a Jewish Miss Rheingold? “Jews and Booze” reveals neither the question nor the answer.Read Full Review of Jews and Booze: Becoming Amer... | See more reviews from NY Times
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